Moeen Ali has tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival in Sri Lanka.
England’s touring party landed in Sri Lanka on Sunday, January 3 ahead of their two-Test series and were tested on arrival. Although the ECB initially reported that all results were negative, it has subsequently transpired that while Ali’s lateral flow test – the quicker version of the test which takes only 30-minutes or so to complete – was negative, the more accurate PCR test, which takes longer to analyze and was also carried out at the airport, was positive.
The ECB has also confirmed the result is not a false positive, though Ali is understood to be asymptomatic at this stage.
He will be required to undergo a 10-day period of self-isolation, in line with the Sri Lankan government’s quarantine protocols. England is currently staying in Hambantota, but are due to move to Galleon January 10 ahead of the first Test. Ali will be driven to new accommodation, a private hotel not in use by the rest of the team, in Galle on Tuesday, January 5.
An ECB spokesperson said that it was “too early to confirm” whether Ali could play in the first Test, which starts on January 14, but with his self-isolation ending the day before, it appears certain that he will miss it. He was England’s joint-highest wicket-taker (with Jack Leach) on their previous Test tour of the country in 2018.
The news comes three days after Joe Root, England’s captain, said that a positive test would not necessarily put an end to the tour, instead suggesting that the squad would have to “manage it as [well] as possible”. England’s last two overseas tours – to Sri Lanka in March 2020, and South Africa in December – have been abandoned early due to concerns about the virus.
“They are decisions that have to be made by the medical staff and the people entrusted in making those decisions. I don’t think it’s a player decision, even though guys have the opportunity to opt-out if they don’t feel safe,” Root said.
It is not clear at this stage what strain of the virus Ali has. The UK has recently been hit by a new strain which is understood to be up to 70 per-cent more transmissible than the previous version and has seen positive cases running at more than 50,000 a day over much of the last week.
Should this prove to be a new strain, there is sure to be increased doubt over the wisdom of people traveling from the UK for any reason. That could have an impact on the plans for not only this tour but the tour to India that follows.